Boyle County Senior Citizens Center may soon become a testing ground for using computer technology to bridge mental and generational divides for the elderly.
On Tuesday, Jack York, founder and president of It’s Never 2 Late, gave a presentation for the staff and community members to show what his company has been doing at nursing homes for many years.
Colorado-based company uses 23-inch Hewlett Packard touch screens with large icons leading to interactive programs that can be accessed by even those with severe cases of dementia.
York’s presentation shows examples of how the technology already has been used to allow seniors to do everything from shopping and singing to reliving experiences from their past through options such as driving and flight simulators.
Some of the testimonials include homebound seniors speaking about the drastic change having one of the systems in their home made in reconnecting them with the outside world, including seeing their family members when they talk to them using cameras.
York said technology in nursing homes and for homebound patients has traditionally focused only on monitoring things like vital signs and medication, which misses the chance to reach an often isolated population.
“What we want to do first is engage a person’s spirit, their soul,” York said. “Then you can build the monitoring and other types of technology on top of that.”
It’s Never 2 Late has been placing the systems in nursing homes, but York said he is open to the possibility of using the Boyle center as a pilot program for thousands of other senior centers across the country.
Jeff Rubin is executive director of Body Recall, a non-profit group based in Berea that brings low-impact fitness programs to seniors, including those at the Boyle center. He was responsible for bringing York to Danville.
Rubin, who noted the country’s 78 million or so Baby Boomers, said the technology could become even more valuable as the trend toward “aging in place,” or extending the amount of time people can live and function at home, continues.
“The opportunity exists to keep people in their homes and in their communities as long as possible with dignity,” Rubin said.
Jackie Sims, director of the Boyle senior center, is excited by ways the system potentially could be used, from engaging participants in the adult day care program to broadcasting church sermons or using Body Recall exercise programs.
Another idea discussed Tuesday was a program where “latchkey” kids who don’t have a parent or guardian at home after school could come to the center and interact with a senior. Sims said that is something that could start out before the system is in place, and in the future the technology could be used to allow seniors and students to conference using a computer.
York said installing the basic system at the center would cost about $3,000, while a more elaborate set-up with multiple screens and cameras in homes and other locations, could be as much as $7,000.
The initial money would have to be raised, possibly through donations or sponsorships by local companies or groups that would receive prominent billing on the screen once the equipment arrives.
Sims, who is organizing a committee to look into the system further, said it’s also possible to sell advertising that would create a stream of revenue in the future.
The center’s budget already has taken a big hit this year when the state meal delivery and home checkup service contract was awarded to another company for the first time.
Sims said the center, and others like it, have to think about other ways to serve the growing senior population to stay afloat.
“We have to change just like everyone else,” Sims said. “If you don't change, you’re not going to have a center.”
Engaging the spirit